What is a Sexual Harm Prevention Order (SHPO)

Sexual Harm Prevention Orders (SHPOs) are court orders implemented in the United Kingdom to protect the public from individuals who pose a risk of sexual harm. While SHPOs carry certain restrictions, it is important to remember that life can continue beyond them. 

Understanding Sexual Harm Prevention Orders (SHPOs)

A Sexual Harm Prevention Order (SHPO) is a court-imposed order designed to mitigate the risk of sexual harm posed by an individual. SHPOs have replaced the previous Sexual Offences Prevention Orders (SOPOs) and aim to safeguard both the general public and specific individuals or groups.

When can a SHPO be imposed?

Under the Sexual Offences Act 2003, a SHPO can be imposed upon individuals who have been convicted, found not guilty by reason of insanity, or found to be under a disability for offences listed in Schedule 3 or 5 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003. The court may impose a SHPO either at the time of conviction or at a later date based on an application made by the police or other relevant agencies.

Understanding the restrictions and conditions: SHPOs can include a range of conditions tailored to each individual case. Some common restrictions may involve:

  1. Limitations on visiting places where children are likely to be present, such as playgrounds.
  2. Restrictions on internet access without installed computer monitoring software.
  3. Prohibition on deleting internet history.
  4. Monitoring visits by the police to ensure compliance with the order.

It is important to note that the conditions set must be necessary and proportionate to the perceived risk. The focus is on safeguarding the public and protecting children or vulnerable adults from sexual harm.

Implications for the individual

When a SHPO is imposed, it may require an individual to comply with specific requirements and abstain from certain activities. These conditions can vary in duration, with some lasting for a fixed period and others indefinitely. It is crucial to understand that the order is not intended to be punitive but rather to prevent potential harm.

Notification requirements and record implications

Individuals subject to a SHPO may also have notification requirements depending on their existing obligations under the Sexual Offences Act 2003. It is essential to seek legal guidance for further clarification in this regard. Additionally, the imposition of a SHPO will appear on a Police National Computer (PNC) check indefinitely and will be considered a conviction.


Dealing with a SHPO

A SHPO can be challenging, but it is important to remember that life can move forward. Compliance with the order is crucial to avoid breaching it, which is a criminal offence. Breaches can lead to various sentences, including up to five years of imprisonment.

Appealing and varying a SHPO

Appealing a SHPO can be possible if it is deemed unnecessary, too onerous, disproportionate, or if the perceived risk is not justified. An application to vary the order can be made by either the individual subject to the SHPO or the police, depending on the circumstances. 


A Sexual Harm Prevention Order (SHPO) is a court-imposed order aimed at protecting the public from individuals who pose a risk of sexual harm. While SHPOs carry restrictions, it is important to approach them with a perspective of moving forward. By complying with the order, seeking support, and adhering to legal requirements, individuals can work towards rebuilding their lives. Remember, life can continue beyond a SHPO, and there is hope for a positive future.